Thursday, August 26, 2010

Lessons From The Retreat

It never ceases to amaze me that somewhere in Manila there are actually two churches located inside the same compound just a few feet away from each other. The place I am referring to is Bustillos Street in Sampaloc, Manila where you find the Church of Our Lady of Loreto and Church of St. Anthony of Padua. More amazing for me still is the fact that a secluded retreat house is sandwiched between the two churches named simply as St. Joseph Retreat House - a relatively small, simple, and quiet place to retreat without leaving the city. This post won't be long. I just want to share the lessons I learned from our retreat. These topics are actually taken from Henri Nouwen's book (In The Name of Jesus) and I urge you to read all of his books for spiritual refreshment and enlightenment. Although these lessons/temptations are somewhat more applicable to Christian leaders, the faithful in general can find subtle ways in which these can fit in to their Christian way of life.

Lesson #1: The Temptation To Be Relevant

- And the tempter came and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." (Matthew 4:3)

- To succumb to this temptation means to do something that is needed and can be appreciated by people, to make productivity the basis of our ministry, which can lead to preoccupation with products, visible results, tangible goods, and progress.

Reflection: In my experience keeping this blog, I sometimes get discouraged when I do not see the results that I hope to see from my readers, especially those in the gay lifestyle. After more than a year of posting articles here, I could hardly see those in the gay lifestyle coming in to join our ministry. Where are they? They are most probably having a "good time" out there. I sometimes get discouraged to continue this work because I am equating success with visible results. I forget to consider that I am just merely an instrument of God and the work of Courage is God's work. Who knows how God works in the hearts of men? It really boils down to the question of whether 'Am I doing this work for the love of God or am I treating this like work where being productive is my sole preoccupation?

- Let God's Word shape and reshape us as human beings, to feast each day on His Word, to grow into free and fearless people. Thus, we can continue to witness in this world, even when there are fewer or no visible results.

Lesson #2: The Temptation To Be Spectacular

- "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: "'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" (Matthew 4:6)

- To succumb to this temptation means to force God to respond to the unusual, the sensational, the extraordinary, the unheard of - and then to force people to believe.

Reflection: I can relate this temptation to my desire to show off and to be the center of attention because by doing so I get the approval that I long for. It satiates even for a moment my need to be needed, approved, praised, honored, consulted, extolled, and preferred to others. It is my tendency to focus on the superficial rather than delve on the essential, the external rather than the core of who I am as a person. This temptation is common among persons with SSA because the majority never got affirmed in their true identity as beloved sons and daughters of God. Jesus, before he was tempted in the desert, was affirmed by His Heavenly Father as His "beloved son" during his baptism at Jordan River. We too need to claim and constantly reclaim the truth of our belovedness and cease identifying ourselves with our SSA struggle and false self.

Lesson #3: The Temptation To Be Powerful

- "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." - Matthew 4:9

- To succumb to this temptation means to make ourselves believe that striving for power and wanting to be of service are for all practical purposes, the same thing.

- Power can take many forms. These are always to get some sense of security and control, and strengthen the illusion that life is mine to dispose of. More power can eventually fulfill my needs. I cannot remain powerless when I am surrounded by so much power.

Reflection: This temptation to be powerful has something to do with manipulation. Am I manipulative? It questions the real motive behind our "generosity" towards others. Am I just being generous/kind to this person because I expect to get something in return from him/her at a later time? Am I trying to control people and expect them to live up to my standards? Am I trying to buy affection from someone by lavishing him/her with material gifts? I guess these are some of the hard questions we need to ask ourselves to find out if we are doing the right thing with pure and right intention.


*My Berakah
(Prayer of Praise to Almighty G-d)

Blessed be the Lord G-d lover of my soul and consolation of my afflicted heart.
With all the humility I can muster I praise Thee for Your unconditional love for me.
Nobody has such great a love as yours that I desire in return to love Thee as much as I can.

Blessed be the Lord G-d whose mercy and kindness towards me is so immense.
Even though my sins are great and faults too many, Thy infinite mercy is much powerful still.
Sustain me in my struggles, enlighten me in my doubts, strengthen me when I am faltering.

Blessed the Lord G-d the wellspring and fountain of divine grace.
Grant me a faith that can move mountains, a hope that aspires for nothing else but Thee, and a love for Thee so intense it sets my whole being on fire. Amen.

(*I composed this prayer during our retreat.)



G-d has a message for all of us in Courage: "UMAYOS KAYO!"

P.S. Thanks to all who attended the retreat. I learned a lot from you guys. 'Til next time.

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